Local schools, police united in protecting area students

Alex Zorn

Roaring Fork High School students make their way past the new entryway security vestibule. Visitors must now pass through the security zone during the school day, as part of the security measures that were included in the Roaring Fork School District's $122 million bond issue that was approved in 2015.
John Stroud | Post Independent

With the national spotlight fixated on school safety following the latest school shooting in Parkland, Florida, student protection remains on the minds of parents throughout the nation.

While each of the three school districts in Garfield County have their own individual code of conduct to deal with a variety of situations, responding to potential threats has never been more important for schools, teachers and students than it is now.

“We are not just sitting back and waiting for bad thing to happen,” Garfield County Sheriff’s Office PIO Walt Stowe said. “We are very proactive in being aware that things can go bad.”

He said that the Sheriff’s Office conducts active shooter drills with high schools across Garfield County. There are at least two scheduled in the next six months.

“How we respond depends on the situation but if we go, we know what we are up against,” Stowe said.

Active shooter drills typically take place in the summer and can last for five hours, with as many as 60 emergency medical personnel on hand to simulate an emergency.

“If we have an active shooter, all local law enforcement responds,” he said.

In Friday’s Roaring Fork School District column, “Safety measures alone can’t prevent threat of gun violence,” Roaring Fork Schools Superintendent Rob Stein explained that, during the active shooter drills, students are taught “when to hide, when to run and when to fight when a threatening actor enters the school.”

The district also offers training to staff and students on how to watch for warning signs and to know when to report concerning behavior.

“We have counselors and others in all of our schools who are trained to respond to warning signs of violence,” he wrote.

According to Garfield Re-2 Director of Communications Theresa Hamilton, if a student at a Rifle, Silt or New Castle school identifies that there is a threat made against the school or student, the Building Assessment Team would be notified. An in-depth investigation of the student and the perceived threat will be conducted and, if necessary, law enforcement will be involved.

“If there were a credible threat to a school, the district would work closely with law enforcement on next steps to be sure that we were protecting the safety of our students and staff,” she added.

Re-2’s building assessment team consists of the building administrator (principal, assistant principal, dean), school psychologist, social worker, and/or counselor, school resource officer if available, and may include teachers or other staff members who know the student well.

When a student’s behavior and communications deviate from normal behavior and indicate concerns for the student’s safety or the safety of others, school officials should initiate a threat assessment, according to the Garfield Re-2 Safe and Secure Schools Plan – Student Threat Assessment Process.

After a threat is reported, the district’s action steps include: Step 1: Make sure all students are safe; Step 2: Alert building threat assessment team; Step 3: Conduct the threat assessment using the Garfield Re-2 “Threat Assessment Protocol;” Step 4: Review findings with school building threat assessment team; Step 5: Develop support plan with follow-up dates.

Both Re-2 and Garfield District 16 in Parachute/Battlement Mesa have adopted the “I Love You Guys” safety protocol, which like Re-1’s response, distinguishes between lock-out, lock-down, shelter-in-place and evacuation protocols.

Roaring Fork Schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt recently installed security vestibules with bullet-resistant windows in all of its schools.

Each school community has a designated school resource officer (SRO), as well.

Hamilton said the SROs at both Rifle High School and Coal Ridge High School provide a variety of services to the students, staff and families, “few of which fall under the conventional understanding of the term ‘enforcement,’” she said.

“They are an integral component of our schools,” she added. “They provide education in classrooms. They deliver programs for the community. They provide general information for students and staff about the law. Both of our SROs support our 10 schools in a variety of ways, although they are physically housed at the high schools.”

Garfield 16 Superintendent Brad Ray said the district is looking into adding a SRO position, “However, we have a great relationship with both the Garfield County Sheriff’s Department and Parachute Police Department,” he said.

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